Music festivals work best when they offer diversity. One might look at this past weekend's HARD Summer lineup and ask how that word even applies, but that person might also be deaf if they can't tell the difference between a Disclosure, Dog Blood, and Empire of the Sun. Back for another year of breaking down barriers, HARD Events has given fans of dance music another plethora of choices on some grandiose stages. From one end of Los Angeles' Historic Park to the other, various tempos, rhythms, and weeble wobbles poured from expensive sound equipment.
Variety really was the spice of this past weekend, as just about every slice of the EDM pie was on display. Dillon Francis' moombahton may have been the biggest party starter, getting a gaggle of girls to hop on the shoulders of anyone that would offer. The trap offerings did the same thing, as the newest craze in ass-shaking was prominently featured on the HARDER stage by Flosstradamus and others. The Underground Stage was by far the hottest, loudest, and most intimate environment of the weekend, showing off some up-and-comers that will surely be on the big stages next year. As long as you wanted to dance your ass off, there was something for everyone.
The best kept secret of the weekend was definitely the Summer stage, a tiny (in comparison) area that fit some of the most avant-garde artists of the entire show. On Sunday, Ed Banger pretty much ran the joint, topping off with a Busy P tribute to the label and a ridiculously good DJ set from fellow Frenchies Justice. Earlier that day, Breakbot smoothed things over with his laid-back disco in a cream colored suit. Mr. Oizo then took the reins and decided to destroy everyone's brain with a half-Aphex Twin, half-Videodrome set filled with the best of his EP's. Saturday had Alvin Risk perform a stellar set and Kill The Noise put as much heart as he could into his performance, even playing a song he finished mixing that very morning.
The headliners should tell you all you need to know, as Saturday pitted Knife Party, Flying Lotus, and Oliver against each other, in a battle over hearts, minds, and fist pumps. Those that watched Knife Party on the main stage were riddled with hard-hitting house, those enjoying Lotus lifted out of their bodies for a spiritual awakening, and those digging on Oliver's crate-raiding skills were sadly cut short as they stopped their set early for fear of someone being hurt. Sunday was just as diverse, as Harlem Shake aficionado Baauer showed he was not a one-trick pony, Bassnectar tore the non-existent roof off of the main stage, and the aforementioned Justice was actually DJ'ing, a semi-dirty word in the world of production.
No, this was not a rave, but you could find some similarities: bedazzled bras, banana bodysuits, and a bonanza of bros. The hilariously long distance from ticket scan to festival was built to keep the runners and fence-jumpers from sneaking in, and it mostly worked. Sadly, one person did die and I happened to be walking next to the failed attempt to resuscitate him, something nobody should see at any music festival. The use of drugs in not particular to dance music, nor to this part of the country, and HARD Events does not take these things lightly, attempting to have a clean record since the riots and subsequent shutdown of a few years ago. Headliner Flying Lotus saw this happen before his set and tweeted about it, something that I'm sure weighed on his mind during his dazzling and existential performance.
Next year, Los Angeles will once again freak out and cops will show up in full riot gear for the worst "what if?" scenarios, but leave it to the candy kids of the 21st Century to prove them wrong yet again. This weekend showcased what happens when great music is curated for the right crowd and how easy it is to please everyone when you have your pulse on the industry, as Gary Richards, Mr. HARD himself, obviously does. With the announcement of their Halloween show, Day of the Dead, right around the corner, it's obvious to see how much LA loves this scene and how vital HARD Summer is to its growth, it's popularity, and it's survival.